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The Leadoff, Vol. 7: Sliding Shirtless Across the Rainy Tarp of Life

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MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Philadelphia Phillies Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Our thoughts and well-wishes go out to Will Middlebrooks after his terribly unfortunate and painful-looking leg injury this week. The veteran is going above and beyond, though, as he’s apparently already back at the back fields; no, not playing, but observing and helping however he can. It’s just plain old good character, y’all.

MAILBAG!

Yeah, asked and partially answered, here. This team is going for the Make Outs Fun approach by seeing exactly where every single position player could attempt to play defense early this spring. Cesar Hernandez and Scott Kingery at shortstop? Tommy Joseph in left and right field? Boy, don’t you know it.

But all of that’s done with a purpose: The team’s going to be carrying a short bench for most - possibly the vast majority - of the year, so they have to make the most of the bench spots they use. Hence ToJo in the corner outfield spots, and infield regulars moving all over the dirt.

Which brings us to Jesmuel Valentin, and all his competition. Valentin and Pedro Florimon have the most versatility in camp right now, and with Middlebrooks as a corner power option going down, the door for either one of them has opened a bit wider. What Middlebrooks lacked in MIF possibility, he made up for in pop potential. With that gone, the club may very well shift their focus to finding a player that can ease the burden on Cesar Hernandez and J.P. Crawford. Things were already going to be tight if Tommy Joseph was getting carried, so Middlebrooks was always something of a long shot to break camp with the club, but now that’s no longer even a question.

There’s nothing Scott Kingery can do in a month to prove he’s a viable shortstop or third baseman, and the team wants him playing every day anyway while Cesar and JPC occupy the two middle spots and Maikel Franco cashes in his last 1-Up. Eliezer Alvarez only has 54 games in Double-A, and they weren’t very good, so he’s at least a step behind, as well. Ryan Flaherty stands a chance, but his offensive track record is poor and all things being equal I’d really rather watch any of the preceding few give it a go. That preceding group also includes Adam Rosales, if for no other reason than to watch his patented Home Run Sprint in a Phillies uniform just once.

It’s Valentin and Florimon in a two-horse race, most likely. Although, at the rate we’re going, I almost wouldn’t be shocked to see Cesar start a game at SS while Odubel moves back to second base. Even just typing that I feel like I’m tempting some sort of fate.

Yes, absolutely, now and always.

One thing we all need to reintroduce into our lives is nuance. And benefit of the doubt. So, two things. Saying that Cesar Hernandez is good and you’d look to trade Scott Kingery does not mean you think Kingery will be a bust, and saying you’d prefer to trade Kingery is not a disparaging thing to say.

Kingery has all the hype of a Domonic Brown and hasn’t had a chance to lose any of that shine yet because he hasn’t played in the Majors. A prospect graduating to the Majors either becomes a star or functions like a car, depreciating the second he’s off the lot. Kingery’s value, right now, is very high largely because he hasn’t been exposed to or by Major League pitching yet. He showed some flaws in his brief Triple-A stint, but not nearly enough to wipe away the laser show he put on with Reading. If he’s the guy a team wants in a deal for a really good, proven Major League piece, hell yes you consider it.

It’s just good strategy, and a really good problem to have. In all likelihood, both these guys can’t exist on the same Major League roster and one will get traded. Would it really be so bad to have the guy that stays in Philadelphia be the 27-year-old, switch-hitting second baseman who has continuously improved (rather significantly) in almost every facet of his game over the last three years? Again: Good problem to have.

MY BOY.

It’s...really hard to overlook the sentimental power of the idea of reacquiring Cole. He is no longer quite the ace that was traded away in 2015, and may be on the verge of noticeably declining. We’ll see if 2017 was more a product of injury than age soon enough.

Hamels has one guaranteed year - this one - left on his contract. He then carries a $20 million club option with a $6 million buyout for 2019. There’s also an impossible contingency that could also turn 2019 into a $24 million vesting option, but it would require Hamels to pitch 252 innings this year, which he will not. If Texas can’t hack it in the AL West and Hamels rebounds well enough, I’m sure he’d be available. And the Phillies, void of a left-handed starting pitcher, could have some use for a rebounded Hamels. Hell, even coming off an injury and being expensive, he’s something of an improvement right now.

Hamels is my second-favorite member of the Phillies. Ever. What he helped this team accomplish, and how he was able to rebound from 2009 and resuscitate his standing in Philadelphia, further endeared him to me even beyond his fulfillment of my belief that he’d be a star after the Phils drafted him. Obviously I’d love to see him back. It helps that he’d be an upgrade, too. Right now, I’m sure Texas wants to give contention a shot, but should they fail and the Phillies succeed, well, let’s just say I could see something come close.

For the sake of this, let’s leave Florimon and Valentin out of the mix. They’d both technically qualify as NRIs, but, hey, we just went over them.

Ryan Flaherty (also mentioned above) stands a shot based on Veteran Presence. And since I can’t shake the likelihood that it’s going to be one of the utility guys in camp who wins this title, Adam Rosales can’t be shrugged off.

But the bulk of the active roster is going to be composed of pitchers, and with eight relief spots to be claimed, someone could sneak their way on through that tunnel. So I’d be curious to see how Franklyn Kilome and Seranthony Dominguez do, because they have under-the-radar arms that could surprise a lot of people, especially if they have a strong camp. The good news is that so many of these pitchers are going to play for the Phillies this year - really, brace yourselves for a lot of shuffling and taxiing from Lehigh Valley - that even if neither of those two comes away having won a roster spot, they’ll almost certainly find their way up before the year’s over. I’m hedging my bets so hard right now!

I’d be surprised if he ate a plate of spaghetti. Or pulled a Joel Embiid.

I would not be surprised if he had the guys dress up for a road trip or two. We’ve seen Joe Maddon do that, and I think this next wave of managers is taking some cues from him. But even that’s still kind of tame on this scale.

I can’t come up with a winner, so let’s go List Mode. I would not be surprised if...

  • Kap slid shirtless across the tarp during a rain delay
  • Video surfaces of some members of the team teaching Kap some kind of dance and he gives it a genuine, earnest shot before ultimately ending up a regional meme (for better or for worse!)
  • We get a Spotify playlist of workout or BP music that he’s curated posted and shared with us (this one I feel very good about, actually)

This whole season feels excitingly unpredictable, but I’m sure it’ll get more than a little weird on an occasion or two. I think we’re ready for it. Hell, maybe it’s exactly the kind of dessert we should be ordering after the Eagles did their thing. I’m here for it.